It’s deeply uninspired, the characters are flat, it’s too long, and some of the special effects are just bad. That said, the new version of The Mummy is probably the most fun I’ve had at a movie in a long time. While the trailers and television commercials have made the movie look like an okay action movie with a lot of special effects, The Mummy is in fact goofy fun from beginning to end, thanks to a script that doesn’t take itself too seriously and acting and direction with just the right tone and balance to keep things on the fun side of stupid.
There have been a lot of Mummy movies, the two most famous versions being the 1932 one starring Boris Karloff and the 1959 one starring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. These were primarily horror movies, in which the “Mummy’s Curse” and his desire to reclaim his ancient girlfriend were the terrors to be overcome. Of course, these were made before some other very influential movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark and Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series. As a result, this newest Mummy takes large plot elements from the earlier horror movies, but is mostly an action-comedy.
The special effects are used sometimes for creepiness but more often for sheer ridiculousness, as in the fight scenes involving a squad of Egyptian corpses. Director-writer Stephen Sommers, whose last movie was the vastly underappreciated monster movie Deep Rising, has fashioned a story with a little bit of everything: romance, action, suspense and gore. The movie is also inflicted with a little old-fashioned racism (mainly involving comic-relief Arab characters) and sexism, but it’s all meant for fun.
Brendan Fraser finally gets to play a character other than the fishes-out-of-water he’s played in everything from Encino Man to Blast from the Past: in The Mummy he’s Rick O’Connell, and with a name like that how could he be anything other than a roguish adventurer? It’s the 1920s, and Rick agrees to help locate a lost city of Egyptian treasure after being saved from hanging by Evelyn Carnarvon, played by Rachel Weisz (Chain Reaction) and her brother, played by John Hannah (Sliding Doors). After they locate the city they manage to find The Book of the Dead, and of course, first chance they get, they read random passages without knowing of the terror being unleashed. So it goes.
All of the actors understand the kind of movie they’re in, but they all play it straight, rarely winking to the camera or being overly hip or ironic. Rachel Weisz in particular manages to make her character charming without being annoying or too dumb. The cast also includes Arnold Vosloo as the ancient priest Imhotep, which he manages pretty well despite having no English dialogue and lots of makeup and computer effects. Kevin J. O’Connor, who was in Deep Rising, also appears as the incarnation of the word “weaselly.”
The other day I heard a wise man say that when we like a piece of art or entertainment, we will like it first, and then later come up with reasons to rationalize and understand why we feel a certain way. As you have read so far, I really liked The Mummy.
There are quite a few people, I’m sure, who simply won’t. It is true that The Mummy is a deeply stupid movie in a lot of ways: the 1920s characters use a lot of ’90s phrases, the movie sags badly in the middle with a lot of superfluous activity and the whole thing is basically a pastiche of old adventure sagas mixed with a little John Woo-inspired action and a lot of Sam Raimi-inspired horror comedy (the whole movie could be seen as a big-budget version of his Evil Dead 2).
All the same, The Mummy is an awful lot of fun. It’s all a matter of suspension of disbelief: those who don’t like the movie will be annoyed by the movie’s lack of originality and can’t get beyond such problems. Those who like this movie will see it for what it is: superior escapist entertainment. The Mummy certainly isn’t advancing the art of cinema, but it will provide a couple hours worth of movie enjoyment.